Miroslava Kotuličová

Interviews Threads

This year's programme of crits and micro-residencies continues the established 'thread' in your practice (ha! terrible pun!), however, it is a lot more extensive and expansive. How did the preparation and planning for these sessions go? What did you set out to achieve by them?

This idea has been a long time in the making, discussions started with our key partners over a year before the project started. Each crit prior to the programme served as a testing ground for new ways to facilitate discussions around art criticism and professional development. Our open critiques cemented a central point that the residencies were able to expand from.

It was also very important to us to provide an open call that was free to apply to and more importantly a residency that paid artists for their time. Therefore removing financial barriers away from accessing creative development. We wanted to see this as the first in a series of residency programmes that can be developed and expanded upon. Exploring and experimenting was so important to us and give artists freedom to make new work.

What other Kent organisations have been involved with your programme this year and in what way? What was the motivation behind delivering the sessions in different locations rather than having one key space?

We were fortunate enough to work with some great organisations across the region.This allowed us the opportunity to showcase Kent’s variety of dynamic spaces to both our selected artists and audiences.

We initiated a partnership with the Sidney Cooper Gallery very early on in the project planning stages. We received a lot of support from both the Gallery’s Learning officer Ruby Bolton and Curator Katie McGown. Katie was also on our selection panel for the open call and on the panel of two of the salons.

We were keen to extend the project to Ideas Test in Sittingbourne. Our ambition and inspiration around the project was shared by both Jane Pitt and Jon Pratty who we met in February 2017 at Ideas Test. We wanted to contribute to the efforts made by organisations across Kent to “join the dots” and to help individuals navigate the cultural offer of this region.

What have the creatives you are working with appreciated most about your programme? What have they found particularly useful?

Our feedback surrounding the duration was positive as artists were grateful for time and space away from usual obligations. One focussed day dedicated to their practise, allowed artists to explore new routes, whilst being paid for their time. The fee allowed some of our selected artists to travel to attend our other events in the programme and connect with more artists.

How did you perceive the atmosphere / the dynamics of the sessions where artists who had not met before were asked to work in the same space for a day or four days? Have some of them influenced or inspired each other at all?

Each residency had a different atmosphere mainly created by the conversations that took place during the day between the artists. It is rare to be able to discuss your work as you create it, the opportunity for discussion increased the potential of what could be developed on the day.

There were some artists that collaborated on the residencies, working together allowed for them to appreciate the other’s approach in tackling their work and influence their own practice.

Did artists come to micro-residencies with clear ideas about what they want to explore or could they change their minds during their stay? How much openness or flexibility was part of these events?

We wanted these residencies to be an opportunity for experimentation. Therefore we selected those who expressed how the time and space would allow development of their practice.

Artists had to plan what materials and equipment they would bring with them. Some arrived on the day with a starting point but with no intentional outcome, leaving room to play. We assured artists that the public crit, held at the end of the residency, was time to present and reflect work in progress.

Most of the programme is available to be seen and experienced by public. You encourage visitors to drop by at galleries where artists are working, you welcome people and their feedback at salons and evening crits. What is the role of the public in relation to the artists developing their works? Why do you put so much emphasis on the visibility of artists' creative processes and the exchange of ideas/interpretations with visitors?

It’s really important for artists to be able to discuss their practice outside of their usual peer group. We encouraged members of the public to ask: “why’ therefore artists gain a different perspective.

Usually the public only experience art works once completed and hung in a gallery. By giving the public access to experience the process of art-making it demystifies what an artist’s practice is, and shows what creating a practice could be. The emphasizes is to expose people to new possibilities, a change of perspective and perceptions ,that could lead to them finding a way of communicating themselves through an art practice.

Do you already have plans for another round of similar events? What do you see your DIY gallery working on in the future?

Yes, we are planning an expanded version of our Micro Residency project that will be based around the experiences of the 2018 programme. The focus will remain on creating a development programme that still gives the artists time and space to develop their practice and engages the public. So both the public and artists are benefiting from the option of a shared dialogue.

We found that adding a panel to our Salons to be an experimental element of the programme that we’d like to continue to explore in future project. It would be great to see the 2018 residency artists as panel members of 2019/20 project to continue our ethos a peer network and learning.

We loved meeting new artists each month, seeing new work being created and having interesting conversations with artists as well as meeting new audiences. And are really excited about doing it all again!

Interviews with

M-R.18 artists

Where do you see peer-led development existing in the future?

I think the trend of artists leaving expensive cities will continue. Threads showed that it is possible to bring artists together from hugely different places and has been really successful in supporting those artists in cultivating wider networks.

What are your thoughts on peer-led versus hierarchical critique environment?

In my experience, conventional hierarchical critique environments had a tendency to take on a kind of board room format; putting a ‘finished’ work through critical testing to see if it would ‘stand up’ in an exhibition context. Situations where a work, project, process or practice was in flux were often not treated as such and conversation still followed as if participants were talking about something entirely resolved.

Often I think that not enough consideration is given to individual context; is a conventional crit beneficial or detrimental to an artist/practice at a particular time? In some instances would it be more useful to critique something related to or informing the work rather than the work itself?

My experience with Threads felt very honest, considered and supportive. The peer-led crits provided artists with an opportunity to talk about work very much in progress and importantly within the context of their current personal circumstances (factors outside the practice that may be having a profound effect on the way in which artists are working).

Did the time and space of this residency allow you to explore and experiment new paths of your practice?

Yes, because it was only one day long I felt like I needed to try something completely new and bold as there was no pressure to result in something complete and developed. I first used a found object in this residency as I was keen to use something from the location itself. Since then I have been incorporating them a lot into my work.

Where do you see peer-led development existing in the future?

We face a crossroads. There’s a crisis in arts education, from secondary through to postgrad. Student numbers are declining, with potential students cut off, or put off, by the disastrous marketisation of the sector in recent years.

The direction implied by this marketising tendency, suggests a future in which art is mainly reduced to advertising, to décor, or a pornography of the senses; art students as entrepreneurs bashing out competing distractions from an impending social unravelling. Peer-led initiatives might plug into this, as entrepreneurial start-ups, catalysing further value extraction via ‘the creative industries’. On the other hand, peer-led initiatives might just open up possible routes towards the collective construction of a future, a “DIY” psychic commons to help in organising the emergence of an alternative social, and hence cultural landscape.

That won’t happen on its own. The tendency will be towards the former. The latter will require a collective and organised effort.

What are your thoughts on peer-led versus hierarchical critique environment?

The hierarchical environment of the art school is useful when there is a specific goal (i.e. to get a good grade), but can often feel dictatorial, with conflicting advice from other tutors. Peer lead critiques feel more supportive – they ask a lot of questions and make observations, which help identify themes and connections, and give advice on ways of moving forward.

Rosina Godwin
Christopher Collier
Frieda Ford
Murray O’Grady
Murray O’Grady

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